Conceptual Metaphor in Apology of Socrates

Revised: December 10, 2004

Contact: Dr. Garrett

Socrates is operating with at least one important folk theory, the Folk Theory of Essences, in this speech.

At least the more obvious of the major conceptual metaphors at work here are:

  • the soul as object metaphor, of which there are at least two variants:
    (a) soul as artifact (deliberately made object),
    from which it follows that the soul may be improved or corrupted, perfected or deficient;
    (b) soul as animal,
    from which it follows that the soul can be trained, made sick, restored to health
  • self-awareness (in later philosophical writing, knowledge) as health
    from which it follows that self-deception and certain forms of ignorance are (metaphorically) forms of illness and that philosophy is a sort of medical practice

  • gods as master-craftsmen, mortals as their subordinates
    Master craftsmen are wise about producing things of a certain type. Their characteristic aim is to complete or perfect these things in a certain way. An ignorant master-craftsman or one who does not normally aim to produce excellent products is an oxymoron. Moreover, master craftsmen direct their subordinates so as to promote the completeness or perfection of their characteristic artifacts.

    Subordinate craftsmen are considered servants of the master-craftsman. That is the sense in which we are servants of the gods. A military commander or general is a specific kind of master-craftsman; lower-level officers and ordinary soldiers are subordinate craftsmen, in the art of war.